Public and Private Sectors Meet on Economic Development
Today, the Belize Biltmore Plaza was the site of a very high-profile, high-powered economic forum, under the theme – Strengthening Partnership for Growth. It’s the third of its kind, an initiative to strengthen the collaboration between the public and private sectors in Belize. Industry stakeholders, big business operators, bankers, financial experts, entrepreneurs and government officials engaged in panel discussions on various pertinent topics with one goal – developing the economy. Mike Rudon was at the opening ceremony this morning and has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
The first business forum took place in 2011, an effort by government to open meaningful dialogue with the private sector in Belize. Since then the initiative has taken flight, and today there was massive participation from private sector stakeholders, as well as industry giants and financial experts. Traditionally the sessions have been speech-centred, but this year it’s being done different to allow for more interaction, input and constructive discussion.
Mike Singh, C.E.O., Ministry of Trade and Investment Promotion
“This year we’re doing panel discussions, and we’ve brought in people from key areas in government, key areas in the private sector, key areas in the productive sector to sit and have discussions on specific topics, to discuss issues like competitiveness, education, skill needs…I could go through a long list but I believe that there are four panels after which there are question and answer sessions with the private sector. The Prime Minister is on hand to address any issue that they might have, and I also believe that for him it will be a learning experience as well because it really is intended to be a two way thing, not a one way speech-giving activity.”
Today’s session covered four main topics – Business Climate and Service Delivery, Banking and Finance, Investments and Trade and Infrastructure and Technology. It was structured to allow for expert presentations on each topic, followed by a discussion segment. The forums are annual events, but there is an Economic Development Council which maintains constant discussion. The Council is comprised of five high level government representatives, and five private sector stakeholders.
Amparo Masson, Director, Public/Private Sector Dialogue
“We tend to for the most part draw a line between public and private sectors. I think we’ve come really far in terms of the Economic Development Council to really create and increase the level of trust. I think over the past two and a half years since the Economic Development Council has been put in place that we’ve seen quite a bit of confidence building in one another so I think the collaboration is improving. I know that with some of the activities that we’ve had the private sector participating tremendously in our trade agreements. Mr. Mena was even appointed a Trade Ambassador. The input of the private sector in trade negotiations has never been I think this prominent.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow spoke of the absolute necessity of a systematic, open and institutionalized private/public sector dialogue. And not only dialogue, but action, since the private sector must play a very active role in the economic development of the country.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“It is well, though, to reiterate that this is a two way street, and it is an accepted fact that government cannot do everything. Indeed, our declared operational division of responsibilities speaks of the public sector providing the enabling environment while directly productive activity, and this the bulk of the income, jobs and profits, flows from private sector investment and private sector trading and commerce. The actual apportionment of this labour is neither hard nor fast. There will be times when one side or the other will need to take on some of the tasks of the opposite number in order to achieve specific objectives. The fact is, then, that there is every reason for private and public sectors to maintain this structural relationship on the issues we face, and on how to overcome them.”